EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — The New York Giants lost wide receiver Collin Johnson for the season on Wednesday on the same day that veteran Sterling Shepard returned to the practice field.
Johnson tore his Achilles tendon during Wednesday’s practice, according to the team. The large receiver (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) from the University of Texas had been getting first-team reps in training for the past few weeks with Kadarius Toney and Shepard on the sidelines.
Coach Brian Daboll had noted earlier in the week that Johnson and his co-receiver David Sills made a strong impression. Johnson started Sunday’s preseason win over the Cincinnati Bengals and had three receptions for 41 yards; Sills had five catches for 56 yards, with most of the damage coming from the first set of fouls.
“Collin Johnson, David Sills, they’ve stepped up their game,” Daboll said. “And they’re in the middle of the mix, not just to team up, but to play.”
The Giants’ opening is in Tennessee in 18 days. Toney (right leg), CJ Board (ribs) and Darius Slayton also suffered minor injuries.
Shepar, meanwhile, was on his way back from a torn Achilles sustained last December. He returned to training for the first time since the injury on Wednesday.
“It felt great, man,” said Shepard, hitting some reps during live practice and even catching a 20-yard pass from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. “Just being back on the pitch is a blessing. Especially when you’re going through an injury like that and you’ve been on the sidelines for so long watching those guys go after it. You have to take every day and cherish them because you never know when to sit that long.”
It had been eight months and five days since Shepard tore his Achilles tendon. He is the longest serving Giant and has 349 catches for 3,884 yards and 21 touchdowns in his career, all in New York.
Shepar’s return made it seem like the Giants were actually getting healthier at the position. Toney, Board and Slayton took part in the early parts of Wednesday’s practice.
But Toney grabbed the back of his leg during practice and Johnson and Marcus Kemp suffered significant injuries. Both Johnson and Kemp landed on injured reserve later in the day.
The Giants claimed wide receivers Bailey Gaither and Jaylon Moore on Wednesday to fill the void. They cut off Jordan Akins to make room on the roster.
Johnson, 24, has 29 catches for 377 yards in 26 career games with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Giants. He made his mark with the Giants last year as a blocker.
But this summer, it looked like he had taken his game to the next level. He played consistently throughout training camp, gaining the confidence of starting quarterback Daniel Jones and some first-team reps.
Johnson even had 10 catches for 123 receiving yards in the first two preseason games this season. With Toney still confused and Shepard coming back from a serious injury, it seemed possible Johnson could have started Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans — or at least played a substantial part. Instead, his season ended prematurely.